Introduction: As expectations for effective continuing medical education (CME) grow, so, too, does the need to identify relationships among educational methods, physician performance, and patient outcomes associated with specific disease entities. Thus, we set out to review the literature on the effectiveness of physician educational interventions in the management and follow-up of hypertension.
Method: We searched PubMed and the Research and Development Resource Base in Continuing Medical Education for randomized controlled trials of physician educational interventions. We included only those studies that (a) used replicable educational interventions with > 50% physician involvement and that employed objective methods to measure physician behavior change or patient outcomes, (b) indicated a physician or patient dropout rate of < 30%, and (c) followed outcome measurement for > 30 days. Studies were designated "positive" if one or more of the primary outcome measures demonstrated a statistically significant change in physician performance or health care outcome.
Results: We found 12 studies in which 7 different physician educational interventions were employed, alone or in combination, including reminders (computer or chart), formal CME, computerized decision support systems/risk stratification, printed educational materials, academic detailing, continuous quality improvement projects, and disease management aids in patient charts. Of the 12, 7 were positive and 4 were negative. One had mixed results.
Discussion: Although physician educational interventions, especially reminders, improved the follow-up of hypertension, they were ineffective in changing blood pressure levels. However, they may have some utility in improving compliance with guideline recommendations.